I won’t sit here and tell you every kid who grows up playing football, baseball and basketball will grow up to be like Patrick Mahomes.
Mahomes is an outlier.
His athletic gifts are off the charts. He stands at 6-foot-3, 230 pounds. His dad played Major League Baseball for 11 years. He grew up with access to experiences and knowledge most kids do not.
However, that doesn’t mean playing multiple sports didn’t help Mahomes become a better athlete.
“Patrick is the poster child for the multi-sport athlete,” Adam Cook, Mahomes’ football coach at Whitehouse (Texas) High School, recently told Yahoo Sports.
“Because he played multiple sports, the overlay of all of those experiences and skills are there in the NFL…It’s all just one game for Patrick. It’s always been just one big game, just on different playing surfaces. In high school football, you are guaranteed just 10 games. Instead (of only playing football), Patrick was always playing something and learning how to win along the way.”
Let’s start with baseball.
Mahomes played the sport all the way up until his freshman year at Texas Tech. His senior year of high school, he pitched a no-hitter with 16 strikeouts. He was a high-end MLB prospect who could hit, pitch, field and run.
Mahomes played “long toss,” a baseball drill that entails throwing a ball over a greater distance than you’d typically encounter during a game, religiously during his youth. He believes it helped develop the howitzer throwing arm he sports today. He also spent much of his career as a shortstop, a position that requires rifling throws from awkward body positions and unorthodox arm slots.
“I think a lot of (my improvisation) is from baseball and how I could sling the ball across the diamond. I played shortstop my whole life. I never had my feet under me. I was always making throws across my body,” Mahomes told Texas Football magazine in 2016.
Then there was basketball.
While not as publicized as his baseball career, Mahomes was a pretty darn good basketball player. He started on Whitehouse’s varsity squad as a freshman. His senior year, he averaged 19 points and eight rebounds per game.
Basketball helped Mahomes the quarterback gain a better mastery of how to manipulate defenders with his eyes and feet—and how to deliver his trademark no-look passes.
“It’s not like I mean to throw no-look passes…I think it kind of happens out of instinct,” Mahomes told Sports Illustrated in 2018. “It just kind of happens whenever I think I can get someone open by looking (the defender) off with my eyes. It definitely helps whenever you have played basketball in your career. When you do those no-look passes in basketball, it translates a little bit to whenever you are kind of off scrambling and you just kind of look (the defender) off a little bit and throw it to (the receiver).”
By all accounts, Mahomes was also a great teammate in all three sports, and he undoubtedly helped his teams win a lot of games. The leadership and competitive qualities he built by playing multiple sports should not be discounted.
Mahomes is an athletic alien. He maybe could have focused solely on one sport his entire life and still gone pro.
However, his risk of injury would’ve been far higher, and I have a hard time believing he would’ve become as creative and dynamic an athlete had he done so.
A quarterback’s job is to solve problems inside a chaotic environment, and Mahomes’ multi-sport background gives him a broader athletic bandwidth to pull from.
As Cook said, he spent his entire young life playing one big game—just on different surfaces. So when you see him make magic on the football field, odds are that he’s probably done it somewhere before.